Typhus reaches ‘epidemic levels’ in parts of Los Angeles area
The Homeless and Typhus Intersect ~ Reaching Epidemic Numbers in LA
LOS ANGELES — Health officials reported a typhus outbreak in Los Angeles County and say it has reached “epidemic levels” in the city of Pasadena.
It was the American dream to own your own home, save money for your children’s college tuition and of course save enough for your retirement because we can’t stay young forever. Not yet, give science time.
It is still the American dream to own your own home but it’s much more difficult in 2018.
In Los Angeles there is a higher ratio of wealthier people living in the opulence of a dynasty. Where actors, directors, producers, writers, etc. have earned their wealth in the entertainment business which continues to attract many more people to the City of Angels for their one big shot. So the very rich are living in safe, well maintained neighborhoods with security even patrolling the neighborhoods or like some behind big gated communities. Purchasing a decent house in Los Angeles in a decent neighborhood will probably cost over $1 million dollars and if you can’t pay cash, then your salary or income is probably $300,000 a year.
But the number of homeless people, especially in the past six years has risen astronomically in the county of Los Angeles alone. Up by 75%, from 32,000 to 58,000 homeless people in LA are living on dark streets, under bridges, parks, parking lots and practically on the doorsteps of businesses. There are few who have walked at night in downtown LA known as Skid row. A teeming dystopia of women and men who remain ignored by the rest of society except for the rodents, possoms, alley cats and raccoons scattering about looking for food just like the homeless.
We’ve all seen the destitute homeless just asking for a handout or for help. I witnessed brief moments when living in LA and remembered the homeless in New York City as well. During my commute in LA there was a man, usually at the same spot, and I frequently rolled down my window to share $5, $10 and even $20 dollars.
Everyone was too busy and still are with work and their personal lives. But it should be noted we have become a society where buying materialistic things has replaced doing something more productive than spending money needlessly. Like reading a book, doing a hobby, volunteering, getting together with friends, going to a movie or cooking a great meal.
But here are the sobering facts of the poorest people in the City of Los Angeles spending their days and nights in cardboard boxes and makeshift tents. No running water, no bathroom, no shower. You can just imagine. Who are these people? The afflicted, the schizophrenic, the disabled or those who are merely down on their luck. Not only do the homeless have to contend with wild rodents and animals but criminals preying on them with drugs like heroin and crystal meth. They are also the victims of sexual assault and physical violence and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis and AIDS are all a constant threat.
Now typhus has become an epidemic. Typhus also known as typhus fever, is a group of infectious diseases that include epidemic typhus, scrub typhus and murine typhus. Common symptoms include fever, headache and a rash and some cases meningitis and death. It is a bacterial infection spread by parasites. It’s contracted when “the feces from infected fleas are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin or rubbed into the eyes.
One hundred and sixty eight cases of typhus have been reported in Los Angeles, most in the last two months, health officials told NBC News, noting that a normal year would typically only see five infections. The city of Long Beach, California, has 12 cases so far in 2018. Double the normal annual number, said Emily Holman, the city’s infectious disease response coordinator.
The number of cases in the rest of the county since July is nine, which counts as an “outbreak,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials said in a statement. Pasadena and Long Beach have their own health departments even though they exist within the county.
The rodents are not only a nuisance and a blight on the quality of life, but also a health risk. A bacterial infection spread by rat urine, leptospirosis, killed a Bronx resident in 2017.
In New York, rats once scurried in the shadows but now they frolic brazenly in broad daylight. One even became a social media star: pizza rat
“The Pasadena Public Health Department is reporting epidemic levels of typhus fever this year,” read a statement from that city on Friday.
The official source of the outbreak is said to be fleas from domestic and wild animals.
“Infection happens when the feces from infected fleas are rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin or rubbed into the eyes,” the county health department states on its website.
Some experts, however, say the true culprit is the inhumane conditions the county’s expanding homeless population lives in.
“All of the cases have a history of living or working in the downtown Los Angeles area,” a county health spokeswoman said via email.
Andy Bales, the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which has nearly 1,400 beds for those fleeing or avoiding downtown’s Dickensian streets, said, “The conditions on Skid Row are ripe for even more serious issues than this.”
In 2014, Bales had a leg amputated after he was exposed to flesh-eating bacteria downtown.
The office of Mayor Eric Garcetti said it’s on the case.
“We’re deploying every available resource to help control and stop this outbreak,” mayoral spokesman Alex Comisar said via email. “The City and County have formed a dedicated task force through our Unified Homelessness Response Center to keep Angelenos safe, and ensure everyone gets the treatment they need as quickly as possible.”
Typhus or typhus fever is a flea-borne infectious disease that can cause high fever, headache, chills, and body aches, rashes and in rare cases, meningitis and death.
Health officials in Pasadena are blaming the outbreak on a warm summer and fall and human interaction with animals in neighborhoods that have an “interface” with wildlife in canyons and the Angeles National Forest. They say the disease has nothing to do with homelessness in their high-income city.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health spokeswoman said via email that officials are investigating the source of the typhus in downtown L.A. by searching specifically for “high concentrations of infected fleas and/or infected rats, feral cats and opossums.”
Bales noted, “There are lots of rats on Skid Row, and there are lots of dogs that belong to homeless people.”
In September the nonprofit research organization Economic Roundtable released an analysis that concluded the county has 102,955 homeless people — nearly double what government officials had previously reported.
“The numbers on the sidewalk have increased dramatically,” said Alice Callaghan, founder of the Skid Row services organization Las Familias del Pueblo. “They’re like refugee camps.”
To read more on homelessness an article from the Los Angeles Times titled “Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis is a national disgrace“.